These seven critical essays, each on a twentieth-century novelist, are disparate in content, but all are concerned with the problem of evil and inhumanity and with the paradoxes of human existence.
Each essay discusses a different author, but this independence of subject is resolved into a central theme through the interpretive approach followed by the seven critics. Each of the contributors presents his subject against the background of the current disillusionment and frustration of our age. Underlying each essay are undertones of the "absurdity" of life today for those who consider it thoughtfully, and the contrast between what men would like reality to be and what they actually find.
This unity of theme—the problem of evil, of inhumanity, of meaninglessness, the concern for the human being and his future—is developed in an interesting manner. It was exploited in different ways by the seven modern novelists discussed in the essays, and it is presented with different analytical techniques by the seven critics. Yet the reader senses the unity of feeling and purpose amid the diversity of fictional content and critical evaluation.
Besdies the interpretive Introduction by Thomas B. Whitbread, the book contains the following essays:
- R. W. Lewis, "The Conflicts of Reality: Cozzens' The Last Adam"
- Alan Friedman, "The Pitching of Love's Mansion in the Tropics of Henry Miller"
- Roger D. Abrahams, "Androgynes Bound: Nathanael West's Miss Lonelyhearts"
- George Clark, "An Illiberal Education: William Golding's Pedagogy"
- Vance Ramsey, "From Here to Absurdity: Heller's Catch-22"
- Anthony Channell Hilfer, "George and Martha: Sad, Sad, Sad"
- Robert G. Twombly, "Hubris, Health, and Holiness: The Despair of J. F. Powers"